Of such voices, Zunes had nothing to say, and he casually discounted Iranian exiles living in the U.S., many of whom fear for their lives:
There have been some U.S.-funded opposition groups. Most of these are tied to exiles who have virtually no support inside the country, no impact on uprisings . . . there have been all sorts of sordid interventions . . . you have a few wannabes in the exile community, particularly in L.A.
As for the Iranian regime’s threats to annihilate Israel, Zunes blithely assured the audience that:
Iran is not going to nuke Israel. Get real. It’s a repressive regime, but they are not suicidal. Israel has massive deterrents as does the US and other allies.
This would come as news to the Iranian mullahs, who are adherents to Mahdism, the apocalyptic belief in the return of the twelfth Imam who, at the end of times, will wage war against unbelievers and the forces of evil and establish a worldwide Islamic state. Might a nuclear conflict with Israel spark such a fanatical scenario? Zunes never raised the question.
Echoing a well-worn canard originated by University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole, Zunes claimed:
And by the way, Ahmadinijad, he’s really hardcore, he’s anti-Semitic, but he never said ‘Israel should be wiped off the map.’ That idiom doesn’t even exist in Farsi. What he’s doing is quoting Ayatollah Khamenei from twenty years ago. . . . What he said was the regime occupying Jerusalem should ‘vanish from the pages of time’. . . . Ahmadinejad clarified that in a later interview. He’s talking about a unified Palestine. He’s not talking about killing the Jews . . . he’s talking about regime change.
Zunes might want to consult Nazila Fathi of the New York Times Tehran bureau, who provided a translation of Ahmadinejad’s October 26, 2005 speech at “The World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran—the source of the quote in question. His exact words were: “Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement.” In addition, and as noted by Iran expert Michael Rubin, “the Islamic Republic provides its own clarification. In its official translations, it headlined Ahmadinejad’s call to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’” The Iranian regime’s genocidal incitement can been seen on propaganda billboards across the country and heard in countless statements from officials, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who recently called Israel a “’cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Zunes claimed that a potential attack on Israel is not up to Ahmadinejad because, as he put it, “He’s not the commander-in-chief. It’s up to the Guardian Council—a committee—and as a rule committees don’t go for crazy provocative acts.”
Apparently, a committee would never try to: assassinate a Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.; kill its own nuclear scientists for talking to the IAEA; use its proxy, Hezbollah, to blow up U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut; kidnap the entire U.S. embassy staff; bomb a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires; attempt to take over Lebanon; terrorize and assassinate Iranian dissidents in other countries; supply weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah; help train the 9/11 terrorists; nor order all Muslims worldwide to kill a writer for alleged blasphemy. Yet all of this was done in the name of the Khomeinist Islamic revolution.
Zunes referred to the current scenario in which Israel, according to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s recent statement to the media, could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in the spring, by asking if,
Israel [would] do something on its own? Obama has made clear he would not tolerate that. You saw Eisenhower in 1956 . . . when it comes down to real important national security issues, Israel can’t change U.S. policies. But even if they don’t plan to go to war, we prepare and threaten war . . . it makes it difficult to stop.
In Zunes’s mind, the U.S. and Israel are always the instigators of war, rather than the bellicose Iranian regime that has terrorized not only its own population, but much of the civilized world. He would do better to direct his closing call to “prevent another war in the Middle East” to Tehran.
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